The 1080p signal has the distinct advantage of actually existing. There is no 780p HD (high-definition) signal, but it’s a common mistake. There is a 768p, but even that is more often lumped in with the 720p standard.

The 720p format displays 720 horizontal lines at the same time 60 times a second, which results in a progressive image display (that’s how the “p” got added). However, it’s been superseded (somewhat) by the newer 1080p signal standard. The 1080p signal improves the resolution available on the 720p signal more than two times over. That’s the good news. The bad news is that very few broadcasters actually broadcast using the 1080p signal. So, even if you own a 1080p television set, it can’t display what is not there. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a 1080p television set isn’t right for you.

Most Blu-ray disks are encoded in 1080p and all Blu-ray players support 1080 output. So if you’re a big movie watcher with a growing Blu-ray collection, a 1080p HDTV might still make sense for you. Also, more games are being developed with the 1080p encoding. The television broadcasters that seem to be moving first to the 1080p signal are pay-per-view options and on-demand networks. If you use your television monitor as a computer screen, you might also have media that can take advantage of the 1080p signal.

However, if you’re just the simple TV watcher, the 720p HDTV might still be best for you. The 720p television sets are still available in the smaller sizes (50 inches or less) and tests have shown that there is no appreciable difference in picture between the 720p and 1080p resolution sets at that size. The one caveat here is how close you like to sit to your television. If you like to sit close, the 1080p advantage might be noticeable because the 1080p has greater pixel density than does the 720p. Greater pixel density simply means that you can’t see the stair-step effect of a pixel line.